Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Lover Today by by Kaylee Pratt

Three things lie on my bedside table:
An ashtray, a condom, and my love for you.
The tapestry he gave me is fleeing the wall,
lilting from the breath of the open window.
The sheets—as a whole—a colloquial heap,
more a mess than the folds in my ribs.
The air tastes like longing and secondhand smoke

though the ashtray is empty;
You’d rather throw your lit cigarettes
off the skirts of the balcony
than return to the bed and see me.

Kaylee Pratt enjoys half-dead trees (also known as autumn), jogging uphill (also known as torture), and collecting books (also known as drooling at Barnes & Noble). Despite her literary obsessions, she’s studying as a Creative Media major at Champlain College in order to extend her storytelling into less conventional mediums.

Scavenger Hunts by Kaylee Pratt

Middle of my childhood summer:
I’d ask Mom to hide Easter eggs around the house.
She’d heave an exasperated, motherly sigh,
likely on behalf of finding
pastel baubles under couches year-round.

She only participated half the times,
and with limbs scraping the rough of the carpet,
I’d pile all the eggs in the bottom of my shirt,
folded up over the treasure and exposing
the rounded surface of my little-girl belly.

I guess I’ve always liked finding lost things,
like Easter eggs and stories, and Dad’s car keys and
my sister when she ran off in the grocery store.

I gave up on scavenger hunts once I got my braces,
My mouth full of treasure overwhelming the seasons.
But easing myself into a hiding place
Required less effort than my mother
tossing synthetic eggs behind curtains.

Fold me up into a fetal ball and
close me into pale plastic.
Maybe someday my mother will unearth me
beneath a pile of dust, cluck her tongue,
and set me on the kitchen counter
beside the fruit bowl
in the sun.

Kaylee Pratt enjoys half-dead trees (also known as autumn), jogging uphill (also known as torture), and collecting books (also known as drooling at Barnes & Noble). Despite her literary obsessions, she’s studying as a Creative Media major at Champlain College in order to extend her storytelling into less conventional mediums.

India: Diwali by Jude Cowan Montague

1. Preparations

The rows of earthenlamps, with their tiny little lips
to kiss the day are pulled off the tower of clay
by wet hands
and left to bake in the sun.

Sisters make conversation all their lives, one to spin,
one to cup the smooth sticky earth.
A married couple squat, chatting by their wheel, expressions shutting into
the after-down of long hours.

The diyas, dipped in water, drip dry, the slip plopping back
into the water in the bucket.
The potters, shirtless in the sun, cry to ANI.
Chinese electric lights don't need constant oil refills.

Poor earth cups can't compete with elephant trunks
flashing violet, twinkling Ganesh
promising luck in the centre of a dancing circle
or ranges of mountain emeralds burning peace into the soul.

When Lord Rama returns shortly to Ayodya,
he will be watched by jungle-eyes flickering
behind vines of bitter bulbs.
Will he have opinions on this business of his welcome?

2. Dhanteras

Together we go to buy the yellow metal,
bracelets, necklaces, earrings, chains
to dazzle the enemy with his own reflection.

Diamonds, coins,
for good luck, for good chat,
bestow charm on Rajkot city.

ANI’s mic collects auspicious words.
Listen to me my friend, I will tell you, ‘Silver is the ideal
metal for god,’ so buy a god’s idol.

The goddess’s footprints
unearthed beneath a fringe of marigold garlands
point bare toes to the open door of a Surat jewellers.

We follow her sign, ankles singing,
while negotiating Yama on his motorbike,
who phut-phuts around his dear yellow-sari, trying to grab her

but Shruti escapes. We cluster round the counter,
propping designer bags on the glass,
showing Dipak the shopkeeper we have money.

Neelja holds a string of heaven at her folding neck, her shy
smile asking, can this simple face
shimmer like a pearl?

Jude Cowan Montague is a poet and an archivist for Reuters Television. Her forthcoming collection The Wires 2012 will be published by Dark Windows Press in 2015. She is also a prize-winning printmaker and a musician/composer. She lives in London.

Finishing Touch by John Simonds

Honolulu, HI 2013

The marathon’s end hangs over the future,
a welcome sight showing signs of age,
its own and some still crossing under.
The last few hundred meters,
the banner spans roadwide in view,
pray the legs don’t cramp in mid-stride,
don’t rattle the calves or the quads.
The voice of the hidden man
at work in the upper booth
shouts out name, number,
your age and bio blurb,
as another foot reaches
20 seconds of fame
after nearly eight hours
of pushing the road,
chasing a sunny end
in the tropics’ December.
Will and trust, also the future,
guide us over  the mat,
through the chute, shell lei,
water spray, thirsty with delirium.
Others cheer their shortened times
in different ways with separate meanings,
all glad to be here among the quick.

Some in their 80’s move faster.
Others grow gently determined
for just once more across,
smiling at the joyous bent
of runners celebrating
these, the best of times,
knowing some may survive
to dance out the worst,
happy to keep both feet
in the game, knowing
the hands of the clock
keep moving, but not so fast
they can shove us out
of this day’s late-noon finish
or next year’s pre-dawn start.

Lead, kindly LED, and keep
our digits luminous,
as the seconds advance,
luring us in like winks,
with light emitting die-odes,
Hope that the man in the booth
looks down and remembers—
judging us not on our speed
but the faith of our steps—
the people we used to be.

John E. Simonds, 79, a retired Honolulu daily newspaper editor, has lived in Hawai’i for 38 years, previously wrote for newspapers from Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. A Bowdoin graduate (BA), he did not attend graduate school. Writing verse since the 1970s, he is the author of Waves from a Time-Zoned Brain (AuthorHouse 2009) and recently published in Connecticut River Review, The Ledge and New Millennium Writings.

Childhood Christmas by Danny P. Barbare

Sears. JC Penney’s. Belks.
No malls.  Santa Claus was
dad in the attic bumping around.
Magically a bike. Frigid cold
winters deep with snow. Russian
tea. Hot chocolate. Stinging
red hands. Radio Flyer sled.
Caroling, I didn’t careless.
Catholic church, twelve o’clock
Mass. Monsignor Balm’s low
voice. Poinsettias everywhere.
Someone shoots the donation box.
But it’s anchored in the wall.
Handmade ornaments on our tree
by my aunt. Picking quite meanly
at our poodle. Sword fighting with
wrapping paper rolls with
my brother and friends. Peeping
in our presents. Going to see
relatives. Fruit cake. Hickory
Farm’s sausage and sweet mustard.
Eggnog with nutmeg and Whitman’s
Chocolates. Velvet red bows.
Mistletoe, shot out of an oak tree
with .22 rifle. Kissing angels,
that played Silent Night.
Putting our backs to the fireplace
and sitting in a rocking chair.
Dreading going back to school.
As the snowman is last to melt.

Danny P. Barbare resides in the Carolinas. He works as a janitor at a local YMCA in Simpsonville, SC.

Bicycle by James Jaskolka

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was eight.  For years I had tried, and failed, and I had convinced myself that I could never learn. I was scared of some loose gravel or pothole catching my tire, throwing me to the mercy of the asphalt. My knees and elbows had already been witness to the unforgiving nature of the stones. Surely, some pebble had been permanently lodged inside my skin. Surely, bits of my pink flesh were now irrevocably implanted in the road.

I tried, from the time I was four years old, to overcome my fear. I remember seating myself on the throne, seemingly miles above the safety of my driveway. I remember pushing off and struggling to simultaneously keep balance and not think about the way my hands would feel when they met the street.

“You can’t be afraid to fall,” my mother told me after she picked me up for the second, fifth, tenth time that day. She was brave for me when I was scared, often pushing me as I pedaled. That’s when I made it the farthest; her hands on my bony shoulders, guiding me down the street. Slowly, first, as she tried to straighten my awkward turning. Then faster, her shoes hitting the deadly pavement harder and harder until we soared. The breeze cooled my face. My tires seemed to glide on the pavement. My mother squeezed my shoulder and I was flying; invincible and unstoppable.

And then she let go.

And I felt it. I could sense when she left. I became suddenly so aware of the fact that she was gone, that I was by myself. And without fail, every time she let go, I would lose control and crash.

Another scraped elbow. Another bloody knee. Another reason to give up.

“You can’t be afraid to fall,” she told me. “You have to overcome it.”

My mother died when I was six years old, and she never got to see me ride a bicycle by myself. I finally did, two years after her funeral, and sailed down the street without falling.

With the absence of one fear came new things to be afraid of: the start of high school, where I was thrust, a fourteen-year-old kid in his uncomfortable shell, into the monotonous hallways thick with judgment and the teenage-smell of inattention; The summer I cooked for less than minimum wage at the waterpark, breathing in grill smoke and fryer grease for fifty hours a week; the day that I moved into college, wide-eyed and anxious for the future I didn’t know if I was ready for.

I was scared, once again, to fall: to not find my place, to waste the money she worked so hard for, to not succeed or make her proud. Without her, these tasks were insurmountable. I was five again, pedaling alone before slipping up, crashing, and hurting myself.

Somehow, I managed. I found my place in a new environment. I worked a job even though I hated it. I was the first person in my family to graduate high school.

I learned how to ride a bike.

Even now, it feels irrational to have been so scared of riding without my mother. She had let go, she wasn’t there anymore, but she wasn’t too far, really. She was always behind me, watching me push, unaided, down the sanctuary of our street. I never looked back at her, but I’d like to think she was smiling – her eyes lit up from the summer sun, hands clasped together, watching me in silent encouragement.

Sometimes I can still feel the tips of her fingers brushing the backs of my shoulders, as if to push me forward. As if to reassure me to keep going. As if to tell me she’s still there, standing at the end of our driveway, watching for the day I succeed.

James Jaskolka is a junior communication studies major at Wilkes University. Also holding a minor in English, Jaskolka is editor-in-chief of the Beacon, Wilkes' student-run newspaper. After graduation, he hopes to land a job writing for a magazine.

Now Define Excited by Bear

I should be much more excited than I am. Every person I have told—each colleague, relative, health care provider, acquaintance—has squealed when I mentioned it. Even the e-mail responses squirt joy (OMG!!!!). I’m getting married.

See? The immediate response is a flush of excitement and a quick smile. It’s happy news.

I have tried wording it in a way that I thought would reduce the impact. We are having the long-awaited civil ceremony on the fifteenth anniversary of our rite of holy union. That’s turgid enough, eh? No. I used that one on the vice president I report to, who couldn’t wait to grin broadly and slap me on the back in response.

I told the assistant director of human resources that my tried-and-true spouse and I would be legalizing our relationship before a judge in August. She went straight for the health forms, assuming I was telling her because we wanted him on my benefits (“That’s why most people are doing it,” she said over her shoulder while leaning into the filing cabinet). She was all giggly and energetic, breaking out a smile that rarely gets worn. Yes, far more excited, even if it’s only for the bennies (for the record, it’s not).

At 50 years old, 33 state senators have changed the rules on me. They rewrote the definition of marriage to include me. So, I’m getting married. And I’m supposed to be thrilled.

I’ve been open about my sexual orientation since I was 16 years old. I never had to come out because I was never in. I get that attitude from my parents. They always taught us by example, encouraging us to try things and find who we are by doing. I found out I was attracted to men. Along the way, I learned to be accepting of myself and others from how my parents treated everyone equally. That was a big deal for a young Republican couple in the Upper South in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Maybe it still is.

I also accepted that the world did not include me in the definition of marriage. That was okay. Being gay meant you don’t get married. No one told my stepfather, a good old boy, former cop, and Pacific War veteran from West Virginia. When, at the age of 29, I split up with my first partner after almost 12 years, my stepdad asked my mother if that was the first divorce in her family. These days he’s fighting cancer for a third time to prevent my mother from being a widow for a second time. That’s what marriage is about when you get down to it. It isn’t exciting. It’s hard work.

By and large, being gay hasn’t been a challenge. I can count the bumps in the road on one hand. A Yale undergrad from my first summer in China “outed” me to another Yale undergrad in the group the second summer, which saved time waiting for everyone to figure it out again. Someone in my law firm eight years later thought it necessary to tell me that I was the “out” lawyer at the firm, one week after I added ACT UP to our client list so I could defend a couple of friends who had been arrested for disorderly conduct. Another seven years later, the Saudi businessman who hired me to run his school in the Kingdom sat me down my second day on the job to tell me he had heard I was gay; he just wanted to make sure I knew he knew.

In sum, while a few have found it necessary to point out the obvious, I am fortunate that just living my life, being gay has not had negative consequences. And I’ve tried to live a respectable, friendly, and interesting life, since I’m the only recognizably gay man some people have ever known. It’s sort of like being the only snow leopard at the zoo.

Now, I’m getting married. Again. Can you tell I’m elated?

We had a lovely Taoist-Christian ceremony in Thacher State Park 15 years ago, with Albany and Schenectady spread out below us. My mother almost slid over the edge of the precipice, saved by the Marine reflexes of my new brother-not-in-law. We self-catered: roast beef on the grill, salt potatoes, and salad. The only taste of wedding cake we got was from the pieces we smooshed in each other’s mouth at his cousin’s urging. Our families played volleyball to close out the day. Later on, a lawyer helped us with some basic documents to reflect our commitment to one another.

Over the years, we toyed with the idea of going to Canada (he’s half Canadian), but either the procrastinator or the romantic in us always won out. We already know we’re married in the eyes of God and the universe. Let’s wait and see what New York does. Solid thoughts based on wispy premises.

Lo and behold, New York did something. Now, I’m getting married and I’m supposed to be excited. When he handed me some paper and a pen after dinner one night for us to write down ideas—his way of proposing this second time—I really was joking when I said, “I guess ‘no’ isn’t an option.”

Then it struck me as I watched the counter-protesters on the news wailing about the 33 senators who have messed with God’s definition of marriage. I’m reasonably certain God did not write New York’s marriage statute. However, in rewriting New York’s definition of marriage, those senators changed another definition: what it means to be a gay man.

My definition of being gay, and by extension my definition of myself, never included marriage. It certainly included sharing my life with a partner in many of the same ways my mother and father did and my mother and stepfather have done, with their commitment, struggles, fun, and candor. Now, I have the opportunity to follow their example in having my relationship legally recognized. But the role models don’t quite fit any longer.

I am a gay man and I can get married. That’s something I need to get used to.

Then I will get excited.

Bear began writing as a junior high student attending workshops at Johns Hopkins. He has written for decades, mostly dialogue and poetry. In his forties, he finally finished several plays, two of which have had readings. Bear started creating essays on politics and other issues in 2011.

The Virgin by Millie Tullis

When she woke up she carried something in her womb that she had not carried the night before. She woke up and knew that it had been more than a dream. Marie could feel the cells, and they were growing.

She ripped the faded, flowered sheet off of her stomach; it gleamed and shimmered from a layer of sleep sweat. She poked at it with her pointer finger. Her skin was hot. She touched closer to the top band of her lace-tipped panties and held her finger there, pushing it deeper into her tight skin. She could hear something stirring near the bottom of her spine. She absently wondered if she could feel it too, but her finger was too slippery from her sweat to tell anything.

The clock said it was 6:34. She thought that it was a very terrible time to be pregnant.

It was the end of August, and she wished her apartment had air conditioning. She closed her eyes and accidentally fell asleep again, imagining how a fan would feel across her wet stomach.


“You’re twenty years old for the love of God!”Marie’s mother threw the ham out of the oven, yelling and crying all over the Christmas sweater she had worn for as long as Marie could re-member—the one with little energetic Santas on it.

“I know that.”She felt the baby pinch her gleefully.

Marie wandered back into the dining room, and sat down beside her father. She ate candied nuts off the pecan pie top nonchalantly. They listened to her mother thrash around in the kitchen, her father shifted in his chair.

“Hey, Marianne. I found something for you.”As her father slipped something underneath the ta-ble, he avoided touching her hands—perhaps her curse was contagious.

Her fingers recognized it as her childhood blanket; she hadn’t touched it in years. It had little stars dancing across it. He had gone out and bought it for her baptism when she was four weeks old. The underside was furry, and she stuffed it under her chair, so the alien growing behind her stomach couldn’t get to it.

“Huh, thanks.”

The alien—she knew it was an alien—was the size of a passion fruit. It was three inches long. She felt like it might have a tail. Its nails were beginning to grow, and she sometimes woke up at night, panicked, because she had felt it scratching her and laughing like a big, rolling toddler. Sometimes at night she could see it. She knew its glowing skin was covered in a halo of hair.


Marie sweated in the papery hospital clothes, and they tried to get her to walk around, to move the baby along, but she just wanted to lie down and avoid looking at the leering bears painted across the top of the walls. She did her homework in between contractions and wondered if she was glad it was going to come on a Sunday—she wondered if it meant she would miss less school. She wondered if it mattered.

At four o’clock, a practice question for her human anatomy final made her cry and a nurse with poodle hair asked her if there was a boyfriend or parent or friend she wanted to call, “It is Easter Sunday, I know, but do you have anyone close by?”

Marie looked at her, confused for a moment before wiping her eyes, shrugging, and saying, “When will it come out?”

“Maybe just another hour or two; your contractions are close.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Do you have someone to pick both of you up tomorrow morning?”

Marie turned back to her laptop and made a point of starting at it until the nurse left. She wanted to be alone.

The baby was born at 5:43 pm. It felt as inconvenient or convenient as any other time a baby could be born to Marie. They put it in a blanket and handed it to her, and she realized she didn’t know how to hold it. She felt her sweat beginning to dry from her stomach, but the creature was warm. It was baby-sized. It had little arms that flapped when it took its first breath and little legs that swam. Its purple skin was covered in baby-animal hair.

She wondered when they would ask for it back.

Millie Tullis is a junior majoring in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Utah State University. She hopes to become a professor someday, but first she wants to go to school forever and ever. She enjoys reading, writing, kittens and sweet potato fries.

Washoe County, NV by Alan Coats

The man slit the last Lahontan cutthroat trout up the middle and scraped out the guts with his forefinger. It was probably the last one, anyway. Before the state had shut down the department of wildlife and parks, the biologists said the species had finally departed, swimming from the shrinking lakes into textbooks and memories.

He thought this could be one, though. They had been the kings of Nevada’s lakes and streams, one of the largest inland trout species in the world. By the time the man had reason to care, they were barely holding on in the alkaline lakes that were wisps of their Ice Age realm, victims of the constant upstream diversions and the air drying into poison. The one in his hands was much bigger than the rainbows or even the hybrid cutbows, and its last gasps before he hit it against the tailgate were that of a dignified refugee, the ceasing of a genetically pure line.

He could fish from the back of his truck now, a luxury brought on by decay. No one to tell him where to park or where to fish or charge him at the gate. Last time out here he broke the lock with boltcutters, and when he arrived yesterday, no one had replaced it. He could drive out to the end of the peninsula that was formerly an island. He briefly wondered how much gas he had left. There might still be a station at Tahoe, but the smaller towns he used to stop at had dried up with the lakes.

The man didn’t worry though, because his doctor had told him he shouldn’t. The mind could be controlled without medicine, as much as possible. At least his could.

A month ago, they had found his wife on the bathroom floor of the Wendy’s, her heart barely pressing out a distress signal. He met her at the hospital later, and as she lay on the gurney, miraculously still on this side of the veil, she looked more beautiful to him than on their wedding day. As she recovered, she told him everything, all the things she though he didn’t know and the uncomfortable details that didn’t surprise him. Contrary to before, he couldn’t shut her up.

It would be different from now on, to say the least. He was still trying to forgive her, more trying to understand. He didn’t know whose fault it was. Perhaps she had been trying to escape, permanently this time. Now he was, escaping from the house with the lights turned off in the still of the afternoon and the sound in his ears of the world humming, vibrating toward nothing. Fishing, both now and before, was a grasp at thoughts other than those of the futility of her revival, and his own looming extinction.

He seasoned the meat simply, light salt and a lemon. Fruit was rare and expensive these days. There used to be this stand in the town near here, an old couple selling the produce they grew in the mountains. Hell, there used to be a town. It had started with the canceling of the loon festival, which had become tragic in its last few years as photographers traced the last few birds on their fruitless hunts for the dwindling chubs.Next the fishermen stopped coming, from lack of sport. He himself hadn’t been here since before his son was born. And then the town simply vanished in what seemed like a glance, its inhabitants scattering with the dust to some place where they could never again be reminded of their declining lives.

The man pulled out his knife and ate a few pieces raw. The fish from this lake had never made him sick before, but they were weaker now and choking on the stirred up dirt as they were forced closer to the lake bed. The taste was the same as always, though he didn’t try to commit the last few bites to memory.

Though the lake was irrevocably different now, the area was as scenic as it had been when he had first waded into it as a boy. He could see the opposite shore, the tiny green and purple withered plants, and the mountains behind the shore glowing red as if heating up, though the moon was appearing, tiny against the black like a polished coin.

As he put the knife back in his pocket, he felt his hand rub against the soft leather of his wallet. He pulled it out, and the withered brown thing felt light and limp in his hands. He’d left all of his cards in Phoenix, and the firm had stopped handing out paychecks a long time ago. His fingers poked into an inner pocket with the mindless memory of those tiny muscles. He bundled the pictures inside with the fish remains, in an old newspaper he grabbed from the dashboard. One was of her, a print from a photo booth she had entered without him and returned from with four reminders shrunk down to 4 by 6 inches. The man pushed the newspaper tighter on itself, mixing the wrinkled paper of her black and white face into the crushed gills and the still glinting scales.

Without a sigh or a pause to let himself reflect, the man threw the bundle into the lake and got back into the truck, not waiting for the water to soak the paper and drag it down to the shallow gravel.

The faithful spark plug flickered and he drove across the isthmus, over the uncovered petroglyphs and fish bones. He turned north into the dark of the dusk, through the dead crystal sand, and the desert swallowed the sound of his retreat.

Alan Coats is studying Forest Hydrology at the University of Georgia. He won the Mississippi State University writing contest for Fiction.

Nothing by Liz Carroll

The grass is cold against my cheek. Blades tickle my throat, the gravel of the curb digs into my knees. The insides of my eyelids feel foreign. My body isn’t mine. The sneaker pressing into my spine isn’t mine. It’s attached to a leg, a torso, another body. That body is his.

"Answer me!" A sneaker presses harder into my back. The ground is soft, I don’t mind. I can’t remember the question. "Are you listening to me? Answer!" My heavy eyelids flash open. I blink the red out of my eyes, it is flowing from above my eyebrow. More drips down. I close my eyes. There’s too much. "Are you f--king kidding?"

He had pulled me by my ankles from the passenger seat of his truck and onto the ground. I made him too angry this time, the punishment couldn’t wait until we were home. It had to be right now. The venue didn’t matter, nobody bothered him, he was too intimidating. Our neighbors knew not to confront him. They knew what he was doing. Everybody was too afraid to save me. I’m too afraid to save me, too. The sneaker won’t stop.

I open my mouth to tell him. I forget, I'm sorry, I can't. Dirt flies in. I choke and cough. His sneaker keeps pressing. The ground feels less soft than before. The blood dripping in my eyes mixes with tears.

A fist closes on my t-shirt. The shirt is his, he wants people to know I am his. The grip twists and I feel the fabric tear before I hear it. His iron hold pulls me off the ground like it’s nothing. I am nothing. He’s told me countless times.

"Are you going to answer me or not?" his breath tickles my ear. Not the same kind of tickle as the grass, it’s the kind that makes your body alert. I try but all I can feel is liquid in my eyes and a burning ache in my spine. My feet aren't touching the ground. I stretch my toes and I can feel air between them, warm and heavy. I can't remember his question.

"Yes." I hope this answers him. I hope he puts me down. I hope the grass is still cold.

"Yes, what?" His words smell like beer. I can taste cigarettes on his breath. Not the good ones, the cheap kind from the convenience store by the movies.

"Please." I don't know what to plead for. The grass? Better cigarettes? For my feet to touch the street? We are in front of a house, I don't know whose. Yellow with white shutters.It's curtains are drawn, but it’s still inviting. I don't know how. There is a child's bike on the driveway. It has a basket and training wheels. She must be young. Maybe she'll end up better.

"No." His grip disappears and I fall. I scream. I don't know why. I can’t tell if my body is hurt from the impact. The grass isn't cold anymore.

"What's going on?" A male voice comes. It's nicer, as inviting as the house it came from.

"Go back inside." His sneaker is on me again. "She deserves it.” It presses harder into my back. The burning pain becomes a wildfire. "Tell him what you did." I can’t remember.

"Get off of her!" The voice was approaching. The curtains open, a woman and children are watching. "Sir, please stop! Linda, call the police!" The woman disappeared. The children still watch. A little girl with pigtails looks scared. Maybe the bike is hers. I hope she’ll be okay.

"She knows what she did!" The sneaker prods me. "Tell him!" My mouth opens and a hollow groan comes out. “I said tell him!” He’s angry. My ribcage is numb from the continuous impact.

“I didn’t come home,” My voice sounds like gravel.

“Why didn’t you come home? Tell him why you didn’t come home.”

“I was at the hospital.”

“Why?” His sneaker winds back and connects with my stomach.

“Mom saw bruises.” Each word tears my throat further. I am on fire.

“What did you tell her?” It connected again and again, kicking me until I couldn’t breathe.

“Nothing!Nothing!” I shriek, over and over. My brain is telling my limbs to curl up, protect myself, do something, but my body won’t respond. I can’t move. “I didn’t tell her! I didn’t tell her anything, I lied!”

He doesn’t believe me. I’m on the ground and his sneaker won’t give up. It collides with my legs, my chest, my face. My nose cracks. There’s more red than before.

"Sir, stop!" The man runs at us with his arms waving. The man wasn’t intimidated by him, I don’t know why. The sneaker disappears. My back is shattered. My bones are melted. My skin is torn and burned. I am nothing, he told me so. I roll over. The sky is blue and beautiful. Red rims my eyes, wet and thick. I close them, my tears bead and drop off my cheeks. The darkness is welcoming. My eyelids are mine again. Sirens are approaching. His pickup truck rumbles and leaves. The man shouts after it, the woman kneels next to me and asks if I am okay. Her fingers are warm when they touch my cheek. 


Liz Carroll is a native of New Jersey, with a passion for writing, reading, and mac and cheese. She writes fiction and poetry in her free time in the hopes of becoming a novelist.